About Lewes Festival of Song
The festival began in 2015 when pianist Nancy Cooley invited some singer friends to take part in a day of three concerts, all featuring the beautiful and diverse German romantic Lieder.
The enthusiasm and rapt attention these concerts aroused revealed a thirst for more - so in July 2016 St. Anne’s Church opened its doors to the first full weekend festival, with five concerts of music that ranged from the 16th to the 21st century. The audience were treated to warm colours from Spain, vivid and dark Russian repertoire, contemporary and classic American and English songs, luminous French chansons and rarely heard German choral pieces.
Much of the classical song repertoire is written for one singer and a pianist, but we wanted the festival to have a diversity of collaborators and colours, so other ensembles took part too: an a cappella choir, a string quartet and a solo violinist, as well as two pianists.
You can see who has already performed with us, and who will be giving concerts this coming July, by clicking on the programmes in the menu above.
Artistic Director Nancy Cooley writes:
“It has been an incredible pleasure to dream up programmes, shape them into exciting concerts and invite talented performers to perform in this festival. The enthusiasm of the singers and players and the warm reception they have received from an often knowledgeable and musical audience is a huge reward, and an incentive to do more.
My intention is to keep broadening the scope of the festival. So I want to move towards more creative and unexpected programmes, and to include some unusual and contemporary music, alongside the core repertoire so dear to those who love songs.”
St. Anne’s Church, at the top end of the High Street in Lewes, is our home, and our song festival sits within a growing programme of musical events at the church. The generosity with which the Musical Director, the Rector and the Church Wardens have welcomed us into their church is truly wonderful, and plays a huge part in helping the festival to thrive: my thanks to them all."
Nancy Cooley studied the piano with Joseph Weingarten and Maria Donska and has a degree in music from King’s College, Cambridge. She is known locally for chamber music concerts and duo recitals with singers, and as Artistic Director of the Lewes Festival of Song, which she began in 2015.
Nancy won the accompanist’s prize in the Walther Grüner International Lieder Competition in 1987 and since then has specialised in song repertoire and in chamber music, performing around the country and abroad including concerts for the BBC, Wigmore Hall, the South Bank and at St. John’s, Smith Square, and performances at the Aldeburgh, Brighton, Edinburgh, Cheltenham and Aix en Provence festivals, as well as many local festivals around Britain.
She worked for many years accompanying singers’ masterclasses at the Britten-Pears School, and was on the music staff at Glyndebourne for ten years.
Future plans include playing chamber music with the Fitzwilliam Quartet, and ongoing concert work with string group Ensemble Reza. Nancy also coaches singers at the Royal College of Music, teaches piano, and works for Glyndebourne Education.